Becoming a runner, and how I unwittingly became one.
The runners high? Simply an elusive myth-
That, or something "runners" tell themselves to justify the insanity of the sport. To quote the drunken, old-timey cowboy on Back to the Future iii (the best installment of the series)
Those were my thoughts on running for years. I would run one mile after lifting weights to get my shred on; in my skate shoes on one of the dozens of dusty unoccupied treadmills at the local gym. Trying to distract myself by watching whatever show happened to be playing in front of me while simultaneously glaring fire at the distance counter on the treadmill display, trying to make it tick up with sheer will power. That one mile was always exhausting. Needless to say, I was not a "runner".
After signing up for my first triathlon, I increased my run volume. When I say I increased my run volume, I mean instead of 1 mile a week I was logging a whopping 2 or 3 miles.. EXCEPT for race week. That's right; two days before my first race in any type of endurance setting, I ran the full course distance plus some. I ran 7 miles, and I ran it as fast as I could. You know, to see how fast I could reasonably expect to run the 10k in two days, because that makes sense.
As the races came, I continued to run- out of necessity more than pleasure. I wanted to get faster but I did not enjoy lacing up my shoes to go run. On race day I would get off the bike, slap on my Reebok trainers, and promptly start getting passed. I would murmur nasty things about running in my head. This was not my forte. Then again, neither were the other 2 disciplines at this point. Race after race I felt like this and I continued to work at it, and I mean work. The training wasn't grueling but mentally it was work because my state of mind.
Fake it till you make it
The more I worked, the less I hated running. I even started signing up for races where all you do IS run. Absurd, I know, but I had dreams. Dreams that simply consisted of me not getting passed by everyone once I steeped foot off the bike.
1 year into all this triathlon business with the occasion road running race and I started to get ok with the idea of running. I even started to enjoy my time doing so although I didn't yet consider myself a runner. I ran still, out of necessity.
I am a runner. Not entirely, but a mindset shift triggered by coach Wesley Johnson made me at least start using these words on a frequent basis. I repeated this phrase on days I felt sluggish, and on days I felt fast. Slowly, I started to believe it. My times started to drop and distances started to increase. It wasn't long before each new race I was running at paces that I couldn't dream of holding for more than half a mile when I started.
Although I was getting faster, and I started to believe the idea of me being a runner, It wasn't solidified. I considered myself a triathlete. If you asked me if I was a runner, my response would be hesitation, and then an unconfident answer along the lines of "umm... I am a triathlete, but I also run"
The big changer
It was Autumn, 3 years into my new found endurance lifestyle and I had signed up for a half marathon to keep myself motivated to run over the triathlon off season (a move that has become tradition for me). My run training became unstructured as I was taking a break from a written training plan. Mentally, I had a plan in my head, but I was free to interpret at will. My running routes moved from the road and onto the local trails. The weather was appealing, the fall scenery in the mountains was stunning, and then it happened. I found myself looking forward to my next run. "Looking forward to" became "counting down the time till" and then it hit me, I AM a runner. The runners high was becoming less of a myth and entering into my reality.
It was last year that I couldn't wait for my seasonal running races. A mixture of getting faster, good company, and friendly wagers made me enjoy the triathlon off season just as much as the on season. I saw paces in my half marathon PR that I was seeing in my 5k PR's the year before.
I am a runner.
I now love running. I love it more when I am being consistent, and I feel lethargic on weeks where I miss out on mileage. I look forward to this season of run races and often contemplate making an absurd decision.. like signing up for a trail 30k or 50k. Ask me if I am a runner now, and without skipping a beat I will respond "hell yes I am a runner!'. Then I will probably ask you if you are, and then invite you to hit the trails with me, because as far as I am concerned, that's where runners are born.
Whats it to you?
Not much to be honest. This is my experience and not everyone will relate to my path nor should they. With that disclosure, if I was to shell out some key components to give the reluctant runner some take away tips, they would be these three gems I hand picked for you from my journey-
Consistency- The more you run, the better you get at running. It does not need to get more complicated than that, at least initially. Not only does it physiologically get easier as your body adapts and becomes more efficient, it becomes mentally easier. If you want to become a runner. Then run. If you are new, bite size runs spread through out the week is a great way to introduce consistency.
- Mindset- If you want to become a runner. Tell yourself that you are. Believe that you are. Short and sweet, if you are running, you are a runner. Forget about the reasons you don't like running and focus on why you want to be a runner.
- Lighten the f* up!- Don't get hung up on events or paces. Yes, having goals is a great thing, but it is not what becoming a "runner" is about. If you only focus on the outcome, you will never enjoy the process, and enjoying the process is what separates someone from running out of necessity- to doing it because they love to. Find places that are visually stimulating to run. Run with friends(even if they are wayyy faster, or slower than you). Check your ego and pre conceptions at the door and run, simply because the movement is freeing and feeling the the breeze reminds you of simpler times in your childhood when you would run, just for fun.
Are you a runner? Did it take you as long to reach that point as it did me? Comment below with your thoughts or your own story!